Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Artist's Artist - Part 1

I'm a writer and a doodler, but I'm not an artist, so don't believe anything I write today. I'm talking about artist's artists. These are the names that are whispered in the back rooms of the bullpen, or are tweeted about on a regular basis. "Have you seen so-and-so, his linework is so precise that it makes me want to stab my most beautiful nib into my neck", and other such comments make me giddy. These are the fellas that are called cartoonists, because they portray things in such a way that they make you feel like you are in the scene.

I can't say I know too many contemporary artists that hold this honor, but I can guess a couple, and there are the old tried and true that I have been able to suss out throughout my years of reading comics, so here it goes.

1. Alex Toth. Toth is a cartoonist. He invented Space Ghost and other Hanna Barbera goodness. Google his images and look at the character sheets that Toth laid down. They aren't just stiff figures, they're honest to goodness character portrayals. They walk a certain way, they fly a certain way and in Plastic Man's case, they bend a certain way. His comic pages leap of the page at you and smash right across the jaw. His Zorro is always being collected because artists want to read that shit. I didn't, until I took a look at his body of work.

2. Jack "the king" Kirby. It is fucking Jack Kirby, he created half of the comics you read, probably more than half. He was a monster of art. pounding out pages like there was no tomorrow. You may think what you want about Kirby, but I dare you to go and take a look at his pencils, they are pristine and gorgeous. I would love to see Kirby at his prime inked and colored by someone today, someone that could keep his line unmarred and show off the beauty for what it was.

3. Joe Kubert. This man has a legion of graduates that idolize and worship him by sacrificing their lives to wanting to be as good as the man that runs the Kubert school. Every line counts here and there are a lot of them. Joe makes his war characters feel, they have a very world-weary sense to them. Even when he draws Hawkman, a character that rises above everyone, he makes him look more human then anyone that has handled the character before or since. Those little grads will have to make a deal with the devil to top this man.

4. John Buscema. This man drew my Conan. Well, him and Barry Windsor Smith, but this man rocked the shit out of Conan, and drew with so much power in his figures he could light the American continent for a thousand years. Even the attached picture of a crying android conveys power like you could not believe. If you ever loved a marvel comic in your life, odds are you loved one with John drawing.

5.Jack Cole. Boys and girls that ever want to learn a thing or two about what you can do with body language and facial expressions pick up a book by this man. I think the reason he was so amazing on Plastic Man was because he could make the character a million times more expressive than any other character (although sometimes I think he could do this with any character).

And more tomorrow.

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